WATCH: In Historic, Eloquent Speech Rep. John Lewis Testifies Against Sen. Jeff Sessions


Civil Rights Icon Breaks With Tradition to Denounce Trump Nomination for Attorney General

Civil rights icon and Democratic Rep. John Lewis Wednesday afternoon testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee against Senator Jeff Sessions' nomination to become attorney general. In a rare if not unprecedented but eloquent speech, the Georgia Congressman famous for his very active work during the African American Civil Rights Movement told his colleagues in the Senate why he opposes Senator Sessions. 

"Those who are committed to equal justice in our society wonder whether Sen. Sessions' call for 'law and order' will mean today what it meant in Alabama, when I was coming up back then," Lewis questioned. "The rule of law was used to violate the human and civil rights of the poor, the dispossessed, people of color," he reminded the committee.


Speaking of his fight for civil rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rep. Lewis described how African Americans then were treated.

It took massive, well-organized, non-violent dissent for the Voting Rights Act to become law. It required criticism of this great nation and its laws to move toward a greater sense of equality in America. We had to sit in. We had to stand in. We had to march. And that’s why more than 50 years ago, a group of unarmed citizens, black and white, gathered on March 7, 1965, in an orderly peaceful non-violent fashion to walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to dramatize to the nation and to the world that we wanted to register to vote, wanted to become participants in the democratic process.

We were beaten, tear-gassed, left bloody, some of us unconscious. Some of us had concussions. Some of us almost died on that bridge. But the Congress responded, President Lyndon Johnson responded, and the Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, and it was signed into law on August 6, 1965.

We have come a distance. We have made progress, but we are not there yet. There are forces that want to take us back to another place. We don’t want to go back. We want to go forward. As the late A. Phillip Randolph, who was the dean of the March on Washington in 1963 often said, "our foremothers and forefathers all came to this land in distant ships, but we’re all in the same boat now."

It doesn’t matter whether Sen. Sessions may smile or how friendly he may be, whether he may speak to you. We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help, for people who are being discriminated against. And it doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, Latino, Asian or Native American, whether they are straight or gay, Muslim, Christian or Jews. We all live in the same house, the American house. We need someone as attorney general who is going to look for all of us, not just some of us. I ran out of time. Thank for giving me a chance to testify.



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You can respond directly to Rep. Lewis by sending your comments to him on Twitter: @repjohnlewis. You can also contact him via his congressional office.
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Transcript via Atlanta Journal-Constitution